Oscar Grant. Trayvon Martin. Eric Garner. Michael Brown.
All of these men have three things in common: they were all Black, unarmed men who were wrongly executed by law enforcement.
Oscar Grant III (February 27, 1986 – January 1, 2009) was fatally shot by BART Police officer Johannes Mehserle in Oakland, California, United States, in the early morning hours of New Year’s Day 2009. Responding to reports of a fight on a crowded Bay Area Rapid Transit train returning from San Francisco, BART Police officers detained Grant and several other passengers on the platform at the Fruitvale BART Station. Officer Johannes Mehserle and another officer were restraining Grant, who was lying face down and allegedly resisting arrest.Officer Mehserle stood and, according to his attorney, said: “Get back, I’m gonna Tase him.” Then Mehserle drew his gun and shot Grant once in the back. During his court testimony, Mehserle said that Grant then exclaimed, “You shot me!” Grant was unarmed; he was pronounced dead the next morning at Highland Hospital in Oakland.
On July 8, 2010, Mehserle was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter and not guilty of second-degree murder and voluntary manslaughter. On November 5, 2010, Mehserle was sentenced to two years, minus time served. He served his time in the Los Angeles County Jail, occupying a private cell away from other prisoners. He was released in 2011 and is now on parole.
Trayvon Benjamin Martin (February 5, 1995 – February 26, 2012) was a 17-year-old African American teenager from Miami Gardens, Florida who was fatally shot by George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer, in Sanford, Florida. Martin had gone with his father on a visit to the father’s fiancée at her townhouse at The Retreat at Twin Lakes in Sanford. On the evening of February 26, Martin went to a convenience store and purchased candy and juice. As Martin returned from the store, Zimmerman spotted him and called the Sanford Police to report him, saying he looked suspicious. Moments later, there was an altercation between the two individuals in which Martin, who was unarmed, was shot in the chest.
Zimmerman was not charged at the time of the shooting by the Sanford Police, who said that there was no evidence to refute his claim of self-defense and that Florida’s stand your ground law prohibited law-enforcement officials from arresting or charging him. Zimmerman was eventually charged in Martin’s death and a jury acquitted Zimmerman of second-degree murder and of manslaughter charges in July, 2013.